Iowa is feeling no pressure as it prepares for this week’s Big Ten Conference basketball tournament in Indianapolis as the No. 5 seed.
The Hawkeyes’ bracket position was cemented with first-place Indiana’s 80-62 pounding of Maryland on Sunday. Iowa needed a win by Maryland to have a chance to move up to the 4 line and earn a double bye at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Instead, Iowa (21-9, 12-6 Big Ten) will draw Wednesday’s Minnesota-Illinois winner at approximately 1:30 p.m. CT Thursday. The winner of that game would face No. 4 seed Purdue.
It’s not exactly where the Hawkeyes wanted to finish after leading the Big Ten pack at 11-2 just three weeks ago, but they’ve regained some confidence after Saturday’s 71-61 win at Michigan snapped a four-game losing streak.
“We’re going to be playing free. We’re not the 1 seed, so we don’t (have) all that pressure on us,” senior center Adam Woodbury said. “We’re going to play relaxed, and we’re going to try to get the title.”
Iowa beat Illinois and Minnesota in single meetings with those teams this year — 77-65 over the 12th-seeded Illini (13-18, 5-13) in Champaign on Feb. 7, and 75-71 over the 13th-seeded Gophers (8-22, 2-16) in Iowa City.
Iowa was in this exact position a year ago and got stunned by 13th-seeded Penn State in the Big Ten tournament opener.
“We’re primed, we’re ready. It’s only really the beginning of the season,” senior forward Jarrod Uthoff said. “What we did before, that’s all working up to this point.”